Thursday, December 22, 2011

Tip of the Iceberg: Re: The Exact Science of Junk Science: Brown Bags, Asbestos, Silicosis

Tip of the Iceberg: Re: The Exact Science of Junk Science: Brown Bags, Asbestos, Silicosis

VA Benefits FAQs
1) What are the Eligibility Criteria for Veterans to Receive Benefits from the VA?

Eligibility for most VA benefits is based on discharge from active military service under other-than-dishonorable conditions. Active service means full-time service (and not active duty for training) as a member of the Marine Corps, Army, Navy, Air Force or Coast Guard or as a commissioned officer of the Public Health Service, Environmental Science Services Administration or National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or its predecessor, the Coast and Geodetic Survey.

2) What kind of compensation are Veterans entitled to if they have a disability caused by Military Service?

When veterans are diagnosed with a disability that is "service-connected", the primary VA benefit they are entitled to is Disability Compensation. To apply for Disability Compensation, veterans must fill out a VA 21-526 form (Application for Disability Compensation and/or Pension) and file it with the Regional VA Office in their state. The "Regional Office" is a branch of the Federal Department of Veterans Affairs, not the State's Department of Veterans Affairs.

**Note: For veterans filing for an asbestos illness, there are some additional steps you need to take to justify your claim. You should use Part XIII – Remarks Section to detail your exposures to asbestos while on active duty. You should be specific and give examples of times you were exposed. Also include information about what you did before and after your military service. You will need to convince the VA that more than half of your lifetime exposure to asbestos occurred on active duty. If the remarks section is too small to provide all the detail you feel is necessary to explain your exposure, you can write it on a separate sheet of paper, and attach it to the 526 and simply refer to the attachment in the Remarks section of the application. (Example: For a continuation of Part XIII, write "Continuation of Part XIII" at the top of the page, and then include your name VA claim number. If this is your first claim, you will not have a VA claim number. Write your Social Security number instead.)

3) Are there benefits for Veterans based on income?

Although most benefits (such as disability compensation) are based on whether a veteran has a service-connected disability, it is possible to receive benefits (such as VA pension) and qualify for VA health services even if you do not have a service-connected disability. To qualify, you must show that your income and personal assets prevent you from enjoying a minimum quality of life or affording your own health care insurance. Veterans can only receive VA disability compensation or pension, but not both. If a veteran qualifies for both, he will be awarded the higher-paying monthly benefit (which is typically disability compensation). If a veteran qualifies for VA health services solely based on income, they are usually required to make co-pays for VA prescriptions and health-care services.

4) What information or evidence must I show to substantiate my Disability Claim?

To substantiate a claim for service connection, the evidence must show three things:

You have an injury or disease that began or was made worse during military service, or there was an event during service that caused injury or disease. In the case of asbestos illnesses, the event is the exposure to asbestos while on active duty. The VA will look at pre- and post-service asbestos exposure. To demonstrate the illness is "service-connected," the veteran must make that case that the active duty exposure was more likely than not, the cause of the disease.
You now have a physical or mental disability, as backed by medical records.
Your current disability is related to the injury, disease, or event in military service. Again, medical evidence may be needed. This means you must have medical evidence to demonstrate that you have an accepted "asbestos" disease.
5) What diseases are recognized by VA as being caused by asbestos?

The VA acknowledges that inhalation of asbestos fibers can produce:

fibrosis, the most commonly occurring of which is interstitial asbestos pulmonary fibrosis
pleural effusions and fibrosis
pleural plaques
mesothelioma of pleura and peritoneum
cancers of the
gastrointestinal tract
pharynx, and
urogenital system, except the prostate.
The biological actions of the various fibers differ in some respects, in that:

chrysotile products

have their initial effects on the small airways of the lung
cause asbestosis more slowly, and
result in lung cancer more often, and
crocidolite and amosite

have more initial effects on the small blood vessels of the lung, alveolar walls, and pleura, and result more often in mesothelioma.
Note: Generally speaking, a doctor must state in writing that an illness has been caused by asbestos. Exceptions are asbestosis and mesothelioma, which are accepted by the VA as ONLY caused by asbestos exposure.

6) What factors will the VA consider when deciding on my asbestos claim?

When deciding a claim for service connection for a disability related to exposure to asbestos, the VA will:

determine if service records demonstrate the veteran was exposed to asbestos during service
ensure that development is accomplished to determine if the veteran was exposed to asbestos either before or after service, and
determine if a relationship exists between exposure to asbestos and the claimed disease.
7) What is a Veterans Service Officer (VSO) and what does a VSO do?

VSO's are paid by either a state's Department of Veterans Affairs or by one of the many Veterans Service Organizations to act as a direct representative of the veteran when dealing with the VA. But VSOs do NOT work for the VA. VSO also assist veterans in filling out paperwork, ensuring it is complete and correct before filing, and will track the claim progress. We instruct veterans not to deal directly with the VA but to work through a VSO, who are experts in the process and can act as guides through a complicated process.

8) What does the VSO need to file my disability claim with the VA?

To apply for Disability Compensation, veterans need to provide their VSO the following items:

A completed VA 21-526.
A copy of their DD 214 (discharge paperwork). If this paperwork has disappeared, a copy can be in obtained from the National Personnel Records Center. A VSO can assist in this.
Copies of pertinent medical records (or a signed medical release allowing the VA to request those records).*
If the veteran is married, a copy of the marriage certificate (this proves he/she has a dependant which provides for greater disability compensation).
*This document is a VA-21-4142 and is included at the end of the VA 21-526 form.

9) How do I find a VSO?

If you have been diagnosed with an asbestos disease and need assistance in finding a nearby Veteran Service Officer, the easiest way is to contact our veterans department. A veteran counselor can assist you in locating a VSO. If you live in a rural area, a good option is asking your state or county about VSOs that work for them. VSOs that work for one of the Veteran Service Organizations – such as AMVETS or Disabled American Veterans – are typically located in large metropolitan areas.

10) What does the VA do after it receives my claim?

After the VA receives an Application for Disability Compensation, it sends a confirmation letter to the veteran outlining what was received. It will also schedule a medical appointment at the nearest VA Medical Facility so the veteran can be evaluated. During the exam, the veteran will be asked about asbestos exposure while on active duty and after active duty. For asbestos cancers, a medical exam is typically not required: Medical records diagnosing that cancer are often sufficient.

11) How much will I receive if I am approved for VA Disability Compensation?

Payments by the VA for a "service connected" disability are based on a rating given by the VA, expressed in 10% increments. Exact disability payments vary. They depend on:

the disability rating.
the number of dependents.
and other factors, such as whether the veteran is house-bound or in need of regular aid and attendance.
The basic payment varies between $123 a month for a veteran with a 10% disability rating to $2,673 a month for a 100% disability rating. Mesothelioma and Lung Cancers caused by asbestos are rated at 100%. Non-cancerous asbestos illnesses are rated anywhere from 0% to 100% (primarily based on the results of a Pulmonary Function Test).

12) How long will it take for the VA to make a decision on my claim?

It's different in every state.

The amount of time it takes to adjudicate a Disability Compensation claim varies depending on State.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has one or more VA Regional Offices in each state, and backlogs vary by state. Generally speaking, it takes about 6-8 months to get a decision. However, the VA's "Fully Developed Claim" (FDC) program now allows veterans or a counselor to gather necessary paperwork to help the VA's rating representative make a decision on a claim. The program has helped expedite claims through the VA's vast system, typically resulting in decisions in only a few months. If you have been diagnosed with an asbestos disease and would like more information about how to file using the FDC program, contact our veterans department and one of our veterans counselors will provide you with the information and assistance necessary to file a FDC.

13) What is Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) and who is eligible for it?

DIC is a benefit paid to a surviving spouse and/or dependent children of a veteran who died from a service-connected disability. For a survivor to be eligible for DIC, the veteran's death must have stemmed from one of the following:

A disease or injury incurred or aggravated in the line of duty while on active duty or active duty for training.
An injury incurred or aggravated in the line of duty while on inactive duty training.
A service-connected disability or a condition directly related to a service-connected disability.
Spouses receive a basic monthly payment, plus an additional payment for dependent children if they require aid and assistance, or if they are house-bound. For more information, contact your local VSO.

14) Will a lawsuit against an asbestos company affect my VA disability benefits?

No. The VA is not concerned about any money you may be awarded from a lawsuit or from an asbestos company's bankruptcy trust fund when applying for VA Disability Compensation. The VA's primary financial concern is that you do not "double-dip" on a benefit – that any disability payments you receive aren't also coming from the military for the same disability. You cannot receive money from the government twice for the same illness. The VA also will consider your financial situation when the benefit for which you are applying is based on your income level, such as a VA Pension.